You’re Fired … Or Not?

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2019 in Communication | 0 comments

Boss threatens finger to businessman. Pop art retro vector illustration


I was coaching an Executive Director who was contemplating letting a staff member go, but when asked, the person had not been given the candid feedback that could enable them to make effective change. This is not fair to the individual, the team, or the organization. Let’s slow down here and look at some steps to take.

Here are some things to ask yourself before you let someone go:

1. Have you spoken to them about the details of your concerns?

If not, it’s past time to do so. Do a check-in with yourself to determine your judgments, biases, and assumptions prior to the meeting. How are you feeling? What is causing this reaction in you? Talking with a trusted advisor can be very beneficial to help you get through your preconceived notions to enable the individual space to accept the feedback. Set a time and give that feedback. You are gifting them an opportunity for growth.

2. Now that you have spoken to them in a caring and candid manner, how did they respond?

Were they open to growth and asked for more information? Or were they closed and defensive while not open to owning or even considering their role in the situation? Co-create an action plan to implement the needed changes with a timeline. Are they taking initiative to make the necessary changes, or not?

3. What have you put in place to support their behaviour change?

Do you need coaching to assist you in the process of mentoring them? Do they require coaching (internal or external) to understand the situation and make changes?

4. What has the impact on the team been?

How are others responding to their behaviour? Have the problematic behaviours undermined the trust in the team? Or is trust still sufficient that other team members will be open to accepting behaviour change?

5. In cases where the team has been impacted significantly, ask the individual own their behaviour and share their plan to make a change with the team. 

Not every detail needs to be shared, yet the person must own their behaviour. Team members may need to give space for slight setbacks. Owning the challenging behaviour and making a commitment to change is helpful for re-establishing respect and trust within the team.

If they have bullied others and their behaviour may have undermined trust to the point of no return. Everyone deserves respect and dignity within their workplace – and as an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your team is treated with respect. Don’t let one person’s aggressive behaviour result in losing great team members to another organization.

6. Monitor the situation and have regular check-ins to ensure that progress is being made. 

Hold yourself responsible to continue to meet with the individual, be accountable to the action plan, and offer ongoing feedback to the individual. And hold them accountable to the plan you both made.

Contemplating dismissing a person is stressful. Ensure that you have taken the appropriate steps to give the person a real opportunity to make shifts in their behaviour. You may find that the individual grows once they’ve had the support and can become a highly productive and respected team member.

And, if they are unable to engage fully in the behaviour plan to make the needed changes, then you need to put the needs of your organization first and terminate their employment.

Personal Growth as Route to Great Client Care

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2019 in Motivation, My work | 0 comments

Inspire Cloud Concept

At a party, I asked a teacher if she was planning to take any courses this summer. The response was, “I’m at the top of my pay grid” – I was shocked!

As a professional, I pride myself on continuous learning and improving my craft through books, courses and I expect others do the same. Some professionals, like engineers, doctors, social workers, and many others, require annual continuing education credits to maintain their professional status. And coming from that history, have simply sustained the practice.

And who is responsible for this training? I think it’s a shared responsibility.

Certainly, when I was employed by non-profits, money was a concern and that limited their ability to offer as much training as they would have liked. And many organizations go to great lengths to ensure the best possible level of training they can offer their employees. I happily went to conferences and training –when costs were shared, and even when it was on my dime. And I valued every moment of the training.

What are your team members expecting?
Is it a requirement of their profession to have continuous upgrading?
Is this discussion part of an annual review process?
Do you expect employees to engage in training and development opportunities in your organization and on their own?
Are you able to cost-share by covering some of the expenses, or perhaps by giving them paid time off to attend?

Hopefully, training is not linked to the pay grid – but is linked instead to the mission of your organization and the individuals work. Let’s make it about offering the very best client service!

Here are some ideas to ensure continuous education and development of your team:

  • Create a short survey to ask your team members what they want to learn. What areas do they want to develop within themselves? Then seek resources to fill that need.
  • Hire a trainer that has expertise in those areas.
  • If your budget is really tight, you might see who in your team is knowledgeable in the desired areas and if they would be willing to do a lunch and learn.
  • You might ask one of your team members who place a high value on learning to research and present the material.
  • Consider having a book club where you read a book every month and discuss it (perhaps over a potluck lunch or have lunch provided if you have the budget for it).
  • Encourage your staff to spend 1 hour per week researching podcasts and online videos that focus on self-improvement and/or a key area in your work.
  • Look at cost-sharing opportunities – perhaps mileage, time off, or shared enrollment.
  • Have those that go out for training share what they learned – either in a presentation or at a team meeting.

I have a strong bias for the need for continuous growth and development (and a passion for the same).

How might you encourage your staff to engage in the lifelong pursuit of learning? It will truly be of benefit to their career, your organization, and your clients.

P.S. You can check out to see the training and coaching opportunities that I offer.

Judgmental Leadership Stunts Growth and Development

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Leadership, Team Dynamics | 0 comments

July 31 judgment

Lately, I’ve been finding the amount of judgment in the online world overwhelming. Comments about certain political leaders which are as critical and condemning as the leader’s original behaviour was.

Judgment creates blocked energy which invites more criticism, less compassion and diminishes opportunities for change. Judgment and the negativity that goes along with it becomes a dark shadow that prevents growth.

In the research of Rosenthal and Jacobson, teachers were falsely told that some of their students had been identified as potential high achievers and that they would excel during the school year. These students were chosen at random regardless of their previous scholastic abilities. At the end of the school year, the students who were identified as “high achievers” were more likely to make the greatest gains in the classroom.

As Bradley Busch, Psychologist writes,

No one rises to low expectations. Having high expectations of each and every student and then providing the necessary support needed to achieve that level seem key to all students achieving to their best ability.”

What happens when these judgments become a daily experience in your non-profit? Or when you judge a team member or team as incapable?

That judgment creates a bias for you that is transferred to the employee and team. The team member will experience this energy through their mirror neurons as tension and discomfort. It may also be experienced through the words that you choose to speak, your body language or your para-verbal communication (the tone, and volume of your words). Whichever way, it will impact your team member in a manner that can prevent growth and development.

For example, one client that I worked with the Senior Leadership team repeatedly said: “the employees don’t have the capacity to do the level of work that we require.” This statement was fully believed by the leadership team. And almost daily, they saw evidence of it (now of course, subconsciously they were seeking the evidence that validated their perception).

When we stopped and looked at the successes and awards that the organization had achieved, the leadership team was in awe! With their bias, they had been unable to fully acknowledge the incredible abilities that lay within their team members. Once the leadership team was able to acknowledge the strengths in the team, the results swiftly began to shift from discouragement to encouragement and success.

Take a look at how you are placing judgments on yourself and your team members. What might you not be seeing or noticing that offers the opportunity for encouragement and growth?

Remove those judgments from yourself and your team, then you can start to grow and they can develop into their potential. Then celebrate those wins!

Getting Agency Culture Right!

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Team Dynamics | 0 comments

July 17 - getting culture righ


When two organizations have a similar structure, funding models and approximately the same number of employees, why does one win awards for being an employer of choice and the other struggles with conflict, turnover and low employee satisfaction?

In my experience, it has to do with three factors. One is the attitude of upper management towards their staff, and the second is how much they hold their staff accountable to both their strengths and areas for growth. The final factor is clear communication throughout the agency.

Let me share some insights from, Brantwood Community Services, a winner of the Canadian Non-Profit of Choice award for 2 years running.

On the surface, things look the same as other organizations as they wait for the government announcement to know how much their funding is being cut this year. They have a mission, vision and values statement. They have staff coming to work every day.

However, when you look below the surface, you will find an incredibly supportive, respectful and highly engaged team of individuals who deliver high-quality services to their clients every day.

On their website, they sum up their Mission, Vision, and Values as “Actively supporting new possibilities for people that lead to a fulfilled life.”

Jo-Anne Flood, Executive Director ensures that this statement is central to all their actions for both clients and staff! How does she bring this is life each day?

  1. Using recognition through all levels of the organization. That means that all members of staff are engaged in recognizing one another, as well as their managers all the way to the Executive Director. Team members are active in recognizing one another for a great attitude, being supportive and welcoming and doing a stellar job!Whether it is being shared in the weekly newsletter, on social media or on a private basis, employees are celebrated for their contribution throughout the year. Efforts are made to include personal preferences in the way that recognition is shared so each individual is rewarded in a manner that suits their comfort and personality. Of course, they also set aside 2 days for a staff recognition party every summer as well! Every employee is able to attend one of the two days of food, fun, and gratitude for their role in making Brantwood a remarkable place to work!
  2. Every staff member has a face-to-face meeting with their direct supervisor on a regular, scheduled basis. The employee’s agenda is discussed first. This is an opportunity to brainstorm solutions to challenges, to acknowledge and celebrate successes and to focus on their career goals. Any concerns are addressed within these meetings. This level of accountability ensures that all employees are succeeding in their roles and supported in their ongoing professional development.
  3. Communication – A weekly newsletter, sent out personally by Jo-Anne, is a compilation of sharing latest news impacting the agency an all levels, recognizing staff members who have gone the extra mile that week, and keeping staff members informed of what’s happening in all service areas of the organization. It is emailed weekly to every staff member and is highly valued by staff as they are kept informed, even relief and part-time staff. Team members comment regularly that this communication helps them to feel connected to the organization.

This commitment to staff growth, development, mixed with support, enables their employees to rate the organization 79.6%. And unlike most employee engagement surveys, has improved over last year by 4.6%!

Let’s Keep the Ball Rolling this Summer!

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Motivation | 0 comments

sea, beach

It is official, summer is really here!

While we talk about spring fever, we don’t have a name for the challenges that can arise when the warm weather, beaches and outdoors call us during these summer months yet they often impact how we work.

We all know that more vacation time is taken in the summer months and that projects and deliverables still need to happen, so here are a few tips on managing those projects and keeping that ball rolling forward:

  1. Ensure that time is taken to communicate all aspects of the current deliverables with all team members as they will need to be able to pitch hit for one another throughout this season. Having an open dialogue can reduce stress and prevent frustration for both your team members and your clients.
  2. Create accountability partners or “vacation partners” within the team. Have these individuals update specific aspects of ongoing projects with potential calls/issues that may arise during their vacation time. Be sure to include a list of names of all clients, phone numbers and email addresses including the best way to reach each client.
  3. Encourage staff to add a short sentence of their upcoming vacation and who will cover for them in their email signature leading up to their time off. This will make it easier for your clients to anticipate and plan for your team member’s vacation knowing that someone else can be contacted as needed.
  4. Include their vacation partner’s name and extension in their outgoing email message. Include the ability to press # with the extension number now if your phone system allows.
  5. Have each team member forward client emails that may be of assistance should their partner be contacted during their vacation. Consider forwarding emails to the vacation partner from specific clients during the time off.

These tips can help reduce your team member’s stress level as they keep those balls in the air. And when your vacation comes up, you can focus on keeping the beach ball up in the air feeling more relaxed knowing you’ve got things covered at work.

It’s Time to Recharge

Posted by on Jun, Wed, 2019 in Leadership | 0 comments

cave, retreating

I’ve retreated.

Not in an avoidant way, with the realization that I need to refuel, recharge and then come back from a better place. As I write this, I have sought refuge at my cottage to recharge my spirit that has been challenged by life these past few months.

Have you ever felt like the energizer bunny, keep going and going while telling yourself you’d take my “me time” later? Well, I fell into this trap – after all, I had things to do, clients to help and work that must be done. Yet, my batteries had drained to low.

As a non-profit leader, how often do you keep pressing on without taking time out?

When you are frazzled and worn down, it gives a message to your team members to do the same. Before you know it, your agency will be tired, stressed and the ability to deliver stellar service compromised.

Where can you find refuge for your spirit?

What self-care activity have you been secretly craving for that you can indulge yourself with?

Give yourself permission to do so. If your non-profit has been swamped and working through a particularly stressful time, how might you “gift” each employee with some time to recharge?

Could you give an hour off to each person to do whatever they liked? Organize a yoga class or other self-care activity at work? What if you held a personal care challenge where you get people to share what they did that allowed them to recharge?

We all need to come first in our lives. Like in the airplane, you must first put your oxygen mask on before attempting to help others.

I challenge you to find one thing you would really enjoy and just do it because you deserve to be pampered and recharged – savour it fully. Then plan and repeat.

Urrgh! Not THAT Again?!

Posted by on Jun, Wed, 2019 in Motivation | 0 comments

emotional man listening his inner voice over grey background

We all have them. Those annoying things we tolerate from ourselves and others. They have a way of simmering on low in the background of our minds, creating a low-level disturbance. Whether it’s your desk that’s cluttered, your computer has a glitch, or it’s someone else’s behaviour.

Do you pride yourself on being a tolerant person?

Do you tolerate your own bad habits?

Do you tolerate less than acceptable behaviour from your direct reports or colleagues?

The biggest challenge with these “tolerations” is that it creates stress in our life that is actually avoidable. As a leader, you can have many tolerations of less than optimal or poor behaviour in your staff and you are letting that slide, you’re more likely to become reactive in your communication.

So how do we take the first step to end this?

  1. On a piece of paper that won’t get lost, create three columns: From Myself, Work Related and Home.
  2. Now write out those things that you think “I’ve got to find the time to …” or “not that again” or simply things that you have become aware of as they relate to each of the 3 categories.
  3. Now put a checkmark beside those things that can easily be dealt with. And schedule a time to address them. For example, it will take how long to clean off the desk? To speak with a direct report about the ongoing behaviour and its impact on your organization?
  4. Take action. Sometimes, you’ll need to have conversations, make yourself accountable to following through on shifting a behaviour because you now recognize it as less than acceptable.
  5. Celebrate every step you take along the path.
  6. Every so often, revisit these steps. The goal is to reduce the tolerations to zero – and it is an ongoing process.
  7. When new things arise that are minor annoyances, deal with them so they won’t later be added to your list. Dealing with things quickly in a calm manner can make a significant impact to lower your stress levels.

Those tolerations are an invitation for stress. So shift into awareness and get into action so that you can shift from Urrgh!! to less stressed and even more of your awesome.

How to Perform a Self-Leadership Audit

Posted by on May, Wed, 2019 in Leadership | 0 comments

Honesty and related 3d words including sincerity, believability,

As a leader, what are you trying to achieve?

What is important to you?

What behaviours do you see that benefit yourself and others you lead?

These are all very valuable questions to ask yourself on a regular basis. Having a scheduled self-review process you can champion your wins and set goals for your challenges.

So here is a self-audit process that you can use:

  1. Create a specific list of skills and abilities that you believe leaders need to possess to be successful. If you are stuck, check out the leadership books on your bookshelf. You might need to dust them off and look at the table of contents or read a relevant chapter. Or ask your team members what the most valued aspects of a leader are for them. You will want to consider areas such as communication, respect, interpersonal relationships and so on.
  2. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 where you see yourself in this area. Now, don’t be like many leaders who exclude 10 in performance appraisals because we can never be perfect. While perfectionism is a problem given our humanness, we can rate a 10 when we are really rocking a category. Give yourself and others credit when it is due.
  3. Next, write a plan of your areas for improvement in all aspects that you’ve listed. Then choose 1 area that has the highest priority and begin to write out specific steps you will take including books and resources that you’ll use as you take action on these goals.
  4. Go to your calendar and schedule appointments to work on these goals. Set out a minimum of 3 to 5 hours each week to make this area a high priority. While you might need to have several smaller chunks of time scheduled during the week, you definitely need to take the time to integrate and shift that behaviour.
  5. Now consider what you need that you do not currently have to support these goals. Do you need more knowledge such as a book or a course? Do you need to better understand how to shift this area? Perhaps you need an accountability partner. Do you need a mentor or coach?
  6. In one month’s time, re-evaluate all the areas again and pick the highest priority. You are likely to find that focusing on one area will improve other areas as well. For example, if listening is the skill you are working on, then it is quite likely that you will notice an improvement in your communication skills. Make sure you take the time to celebrate your progress! Then repeat the process for that month.

Audits and plans are only useful if they are following and administered on a regular basis. Hit and miss efforts will result in hit and miss results. Commit to yourself to make these shifts as they will make your life more enjoyable and rewarding.

You deserve to be a priority and your personal development is important to a feeling of success and accomplishment.

How to Get Beyond Your First Assumption to Offer Growth Enhancing Accountability

Posted by on May, Wed, 2019 in Individual Purpose | 0 comments

Coach and Coaching


Recently I was presenting for an amazing group of Executive Directors on the topic of Accountability. We had time during the question period to explore some challenges that they were experiencing.

One E.D. mentioned a new employee who was speaking to the person beside her throughout a meeting. This E.D. had made an assumption of the team member’s behaviour which resulted in strong feelings of frustration. Yet, the E.D. had not spoken directly to the employee.

So what was really happening in this scenario? The story the E.D. created about the behaviour was that she was rude and disruptive. So based on this story, frustration and perhaps irritation is a natural response.

Personal Biases and Self-Awareness

What we needed to explore was the biases behind the assumption. Given that this was a new employee with a first time engaging in the behaviour, it is likely that some past experiences of the E.D. are creating the emotional charge and thus determining the “plotline” of the assumption. You see, when we have an emotion, our minds quickly step in to create a story that makes sense for us to have that emotion.

When you have a strong reaction to something ask yourself:

  • What am I assuming in this situation?
  • What personal past experiences might be impacting my viewpoint and emotional response?
  • How comfortable are you with conflict?

If you are like many leaders, you struggle with the fear of conflict. If so, get some coaching to help you shift this energy to that of comfort leaning into a challenging conversation.

Other Potential Realities

When you find yourself locked into one interpretation of the event, ask yourself what other possibilities are there?

For example, this employee may have been attempting to find out critical information so that she could follow along with the meeting. Perhaps she is a verbal processor who needs to talk to integrate information.
Perhaps she has a hearing challenge and was unable to hear what was being said and was asking someone closer.

When you create a list of possibilities, some which create the other individual (in this situation the staff member) to act positively; it’s easier to have the conversation to explore with them what was really happening in the meeting – and with decreased angst and increased compassion.

Have the Conversation (Situation + Behaviour + Impact)

Within a day or two, have a conversation with the employee while the situation is easy for them to remember. Then ask questions by simply pointing out the behaviour. “I noticed that you were talking to X in the meeting just now. I’m curious what was happening for you at that time?”

Allow the person to share their perspective with you. It will give you great insight into how they think and work. Then share your concern about the impact that people might be thinking you are rude or not paying attention. How can we help you to ensure this doesn’t happen in future meetings?

By creating a shared action plan, you are giving her guidance to grow vs. simply challenging or criticizing.

And that is the gift of Accountability – giving the other person the ability to grow into their full potential.

And remember, these techniques work for both praise and giving guidance for growth – and both are gifts!

How Your Building should be Building Your Culture

Posted by on Apr, Wed, 2019 in My work | 0 comments

Article was written by Carol Ring

Office Building

When we talk about culture we often refer to how work gets done. Today, I’d like to explore where that work gets done.

Does your office building provide amazing support or is it just a contained place to congregate?

Whenever I think about culture and the physical workspace, I recall the time I attended a Board meeting in Toronto. It was being held at the new offices of Corus Entertainment on the waterfront. I hopped out of the taxi and there before me was an eight-story, all glass building. The automatic sliding doors opened into a tall, bright space where you could see right through to Lake Ontario at the back of the building. A small information desk welcomed me. A quick check-in resulted in an “ambassador” greeting me and guiding me to the glass-enclosed meeting room.

When I returned to my own office, the contrast couldn’t have been more different. The entrance way was confined with swipe card required turnstiles and a formal security sign-in desk. There were floors and floors of cubicles and vault-like meeting rooms. It was definitely designed to maximize density. Not that one office was better than the other, but the “feel”, the message about the culture was poles apart.

The Workplace Fundamentals

When taking your physical workspace into consideration there are two aspects that must be considered. The first is to account for the different types of work our employees engage in every day. The second is how to translate the core of your culture into the elements of the furniture, walls, and flooring.

Four types of work mode:

  1. Focus: Basex, an American research firm, indicates that the average employee spends 28% of their time dealing with interruptions. And yet, these same employees recorded that 58% of their work requires them to individually focus for long periods of time. Large open spaces just aren’t conducive for maximizing outputs for this type of work. Consider incorporating small cubbies with sound absorbing acoustic furniture and “quiet” zones that allow employees to focus and get absorbed in their work.
  2. Collaboration: The whole idea behind the open office concept was to increase collaboration and team alignment. However, since employees don’t spend 100% of their time collaborating, does it really make sense to lock them into this kind of environment for 100% of their workday? Creating spaces where people can authentically come together, with readily available technology that supports brainstorming, will generate better group efforts. Consider appropriate spaces for small group work which can easily be augmented for bigger teams.
  3. Learning: In today’s Knowledge Economy professional development is key. This development can be delivered in a town hall group setting or through self-study, or any other training delivery method in between. Having an adaptable space that can be set up as a classroom or comfortable informal learning pods encourages employees to engage in learning opportunities.
  4. Socialization: The pressure at work can be intense. In order to be most productive, employees need to take breaks and regenerate. I love Dr. Posner’s analogy of high performing hockey teams. Each player takes a 30-second shift and then returns to the bench to rest. There are intermissions between periods, days between games, and finally a long break before the next season. How can you create spaces that will encourage employees to take a rest from work and either engage in solitary walks in nature or socialize with co-workers? One way to do this is to use a mix of bar top tables, diner-style booths, or casual occasional table with couches and chairs. It’s about creating the neighborhood Starbucks experience.

Incorporating Culture into the Physical Space

The best office designers spend time researching their client’s culture. Is family important? If so, how do we build that family feel into the furniture elements? Is innovation critical? How do we use colour, texture, and layout to inspire invention?

How is your building working for you? Corus says their building has, “revolutionized how Corus delivers its technical product and at the same time the building has transformed the way the Corus’ team works.”

About our Guest Blogger:
Carol Ring, FCPA FCMA is the Founder and President of The Culture Connection. For over 25 years, Carol had the privilege of working for companies including Ultramar, Coca-Cola and Rogers Communications. Her high-performance corporate results earned her recognition as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.  Today, as a certified culture consultant, Carol is obsessed with creating workplaces that move employees from passive passengers to passionate partners.
Carol offers culture-specific assessments, leadership workshops and training, and conference keynotes.  Clients who work with Carol experience reduced employee turnover, improved productivity and better bottom line results.
She is the author of IGNITE Your Culture – 6 Steps to Fuel Your People, Profits and Potential and Awakening the Workplace. Learn more about Carol at